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Monday, October 21, 2013

A different perspective on the BART strike

So much -- so much! -- of the news about the BART strike has been tinged with blame-the-workers headlines, quotes, and rhetoric. But if you look around a bit, you can find some really interesting perspectives that show there's a lot more to the story than the "overpaid" workers who don't have or need any particular skills.

I've been doing pretty much the same thing as union leaders, and not trying to draw much more than a terrible human tragedy out of the recent fatal train crash. But Bob Gammon at the EB Express does a sensitive, but compelling, job of explaining why this accident ought to be a part of the contract discussion:

the killing of two transit workers provided strong evidence that union officials have been right all along about two major aspects of the current labor dispute: Being a BART train driver is a highly skilled position and that BART workers sometimes toil in dangerous conditions. Moreover, union members were right to warn before the strike that BART managers should not attempt to drive trains in the event of a shutdown, because it’s too risky.
BART trains are pretty highly computerized, but the operators are the ones who prevent accidents. A computer can't tell you that there's someone up ahead on the tracks. And the main BART control room is also staffed by union workers, and when they aren't there, lots of things can go wrong.

I also like this analysis by Dylan Tweney at VentureBeat:

What's more, it took a tragedy to drive home the fact that the BART strike is not about a bunch of entitled people demanding more. Well, BART workers are demanding more -- but, for all the system's dysfunction, most of them are not what you'd call "entitled." They're hard-working people who put in long hours to move thousands of people safely from point A to point B. And for some of those people, their jobs are in fact a matter of life and death.
 And Davey D explains why this is about more than just the BART strike.

The media narrative has been to interview people and paint a story of how the average commuter is inconvenienced by the ‘evil BART workers’ who are striking… Now corporate owned news outlets are running around with cameras in hand asking how you feel..Now they are expressing concern.. This is the same news outlet that went nowhere near an unemployment office, WIC lines or into your poor neighborhood to ask how you felt when the government was shut down for the past two weeks.

In fact, there's been precious little coverage of the computer malfunction at the Employment Development Department that left 158,000 people without benefits (or the fact that the private contractor got paid -- many, many millions -- while people were unable to feed their kids or make rent.)

I hope they settle today. But the BART Board is going to have a lot to account for after the trains start running again.

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